The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


June 5, 2014

Shooting bear a senseless act | Remove temptations that lure wildlife

JOHNSTOWN — Another senseless killing was reported in the region recently.

This one, thankfully, did not involve a human. But it did involve a living creature.

Two Cambria County residents and a man from Blair County allegedly shot and killed a black bear in Portage in May.

The bear’s offense? It was rummaging through trash, as black bears are prone to do.

Travis Watt, 20, of Gallitzin is listed on an affidavit of probable cause as the shooter.

Allegedly helping him with the dastardly deed were his brother, Robert Watt, 18, of Claysburg, Blair County, and Justin Radcliffe, 24, of Portage, whose garbage the bruin was raiding.

Travis Watt reportedly fired a round from his high-powered rifle, striking the bear. A second shot was fired, and the bear attempted to escape, climbing a tree to try to get away. Watt’s third shot, as the bear was taking refuge in the tree, was the killing shot.

Watt then apparently tried to hide the gun from authorities when word got out that the incident was being investigated.

The animal’s head, front shoulders and hide were hidden in different places, most likely an attempt to make it harder for authorities to find the evidence.

What people may fail to realize, or simply ignore, is the fact that black bears were roaming Pennsylvania long before settlers began populating the state.

And despite man’s increasing encroachment into wildlife’s habitat, the animals have a right to be here. In fact, the Keystone State’s bear population has continued to thrive, making bear-human confrontations all the more likely.

We have carved roads through mountainous areas where bear populations are dense. We have built houses in known bear haunts. Naturally, there are bound to be encounters with wildlife.

But instead of trying to chase the bear away, and marvel at seeing a magnificent wild animal up close, the three men apparently chose a vigilante approach.

They should have called the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which could have placed one of its bear traps in the vicinity in an attempt to capture the animal and remove it from the neighborhood.

Instead, they chose to snuff out the life of a wild creature that was just taking advantage of an opportunity presented by man’s ignorance.

The three have been charged with the unlawful killing or taking of big game.

This is not the first time that an animal has been unlawfully killed, and it most certainly will not be the last.

But there are ways in which humans can lessen their encounters with wildlife.

If a bear is getting into your garbage, keep your garbage in your garage or some other secure area until it is pickup day. If your bird feeder is being raided, stop putting seed in it. Remove the temptation and the bear soon will move on.

This isn’t Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo we’re dealing with. Wild bears don’t

have the ability to make intelligent decisions or reach reasonable conclusions. However, they must be respected.

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